Trust yourself, because in the end it’s what got you to where you are. You know you better than anyone, and when all else is equal it’s your opinion that matters most. Wavering causes stagnation and half-solutions, move forward with confidence in yourself. Most of my experience running Endatto has been a matter of trusting myself, but particularly in terms of designing the watches. I had to figure out how to balance the design between what I liked personally and what I felt customers would gravitate towards. The answer to that question doesn’t come until it’s too late to turn back, so it was critical to be confident in my decision making.
The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.
As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ted Verderame, founder and owner of Endatto, a watch brand based out of Phoenix, AZ, producing affordable-luxury, Swiss-made timepieces. After spending the first decade of his career in the management consulting industry, Ted decided it was time to make use of the knowledge he was imparting to entrepreneurs by starting his own business. As fate would have it, the pandemic struck just before Ted was set to release Endatto’s first collection of watches, and the willingness to pivot became crucial to the company’s survival.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
Absolutely! My name is Ted Verderame, and I was born and raised in Phoenix, AZ. I’m the middle of three children, with an older brother and a younger sister. Throughout my childhood, I was involved in sports and other school activities, and I was able to gain a true love of travel thanks to my parents, who felt it was important to introduce us to other places and cultures. I went to college at the University of Denver, living in the city for almost a decade by the time it was all said and done.
It’s at this point that a bit more of my “childhood” backstory comes into play. When I decided to start my own business, I knew it would have to be something I was passionate about to the point that it could be my primary focus every day. One of those interests was watches, my first being a Christmas gift from my parents as a child. As the years passed, the tradition continued and my humble collection of starter watches began to take shape. As I got older and began to expand my collection on my own, I was overwhelmed with the array of options available, and at the intricacy of the construction and design of the mechanics. Quickly, I was hooked. So, when I was deciding what kind of business to start, a watch company was what I kept coming back to, all thanks to my parents initiating me at a young age. Fortunately, the barrier to entry in terms of capital was not insurmountable and the knowledge I gained consulting ensured I was organized from the start.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Nothing ventured, nothing gained”
I love this quote because it has been applicable to so many aspects of my life, and it’s a viewpoint that so many people can relate too. This quote has motivated me for a long time, from choosing a college to accepting jobs to starting my own business, it has always provided guidance. I believe it breeds confidence and serves as a reminder that if you’re willing to fail, your potential is unlimited. The most inspirational and successful people have far more stories of failures than they do of successes. But through failure you gain information, which in and of itself should be seen as success. Moral of the story? Whatever it is, go for it and figure out how to improve with each step, be that step a success or failure.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
The most recent book I’ve read that has had an impact on me, and is fairly applicable here, is called Red Notice. In short, it’s the true story of a financial investor who was willing to risk his life finding and investing in undervalued Eastern European companies immediately after the fall of the Soviet Union. This story is fairly recent, totally gripping, and resonated with me for two main reasons. First, this story is a tremendous example of a pivot. The main character went from being a very normal, “Western” financial advisor to the world’s foremost expert on the emerging post-Soviet financial market. He could have kept the status quo and led a very successful life. Instead, he chose to go boldly, risking everything, to simultaneously reveal the illegal under-valuations of post-Soviet privatizations while profiting handsomely off of the situation. Second, the main character’s willingness to go where others said was dangerous, to invest in companies others thought were worthless, displays a uniquely driven person with a true entrepreneurial spirit. He had an idea, and more importantly, he had the confidence and knowledge to execute on that idea, despite what others opined.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?
I graduated in 2009, the height of our last global crisis, so I’ve been gaining experience in pivoting for a while now! Once I was able to get a foothold in the working world, I was fortunate to land a position consulting for Booz Allen Hamilton, specifically working on a contract with the government to improve the business operations of the Department of Veteran Affairs. That kicked off my time in the industry and was succeeded by a stint in Chicago consulting for a tech company using SaaS to streamline internal processes. Finally, in 2015 I moved back to Phoenix and became the 3rd hire at a small firm focused on helping financial advisors start and fix their independent practices, ranging in size from family offices to nationally recognized firms. By the end of 2018 I realized my time consulting had run its course and Endatto was founded in the second quarter of 2019.
What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?
The pandemic required me to pivot in a number of ways. First and foremost was the release of Endatto’s premier collection. Our plan was to release that collection in the first quarter of 2020. Obviously, that was thrown out around the turn of the year. We had felt like that would be a possibility as some of our overseas vendors began to experience delays in the fourth quarter of 2019, and by the start of 2020 we knew that a first quarter release simply would not be possible. As a result, we zeroed in on a date we felt was feasible (June 17, 2020), and decided we’d release then no matter what. It was possible this meant selling watches before they were finished being produced, but we knew the broader market would understand our predicament. We could also promise the watches would arrive eventually, as all invoices had been paid, so it was just a matter of vendors getting back to work to finish the production. We’re proud to say we were able to stick to that date, with delivery of watches starting only a few weeks later.
A major part of the watch world is attending shows. It’s an opportunity for brands and customers to interact face to face, allowing the customers to see the watch in person and even try it out on for size. Obviously, the pandemic ended that possibility for a while, which was a fairly crushing blow. Shows are one of the best ways for a small, independent brand like Endatto to affordably introduce itself to a subsection of the market all but guaranteed to show interest. Then, a biannual show decided to get creative and go virtual, so we decided to pivot with them and participate in the unknown, hoping for the best. Was it the same as an in person experience? No, but expecting it to be would have been shortsighted. However, it was absolutely beneficial. We got a bit of publicity and built a number of relationships that will continue for a long time to come. Given the choices, I’m thrilled we decided to pivot and make the best of what was on offer, rather than fret about the inability to present in a fashion that doesn’t currently exist.
My final example was more recent, and proof that it’s not always poor fortune that requires a business to pivot. In this instance, we had the good fortune of being contacted by a large, international magazine that had a last-minute advertorial cancellation. As a result, we were offered the space at a rate so dramatically discounted that it could not be turned down, even by a company with a shoestring marketing budget! We got photos and graphics completed at warp speed, and as a result can proudly say that our first international ad will go to print at the beginning of December!
Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?
Agility and flexibility is everything when you’re an entrepreneur. For me, the true “Aha moment” was when we realized we would have to delay the release of the premier collection, which we had been working on for 7–8 months at that point. It was in that moment that I realized it wouldn’t just be the first release that would require a pivot. everything was going to have to pivot. We’ve had to pivot how we interact with customers, we’ve had to pivot who we’re marketing to and how we’re reaching them, we had to pivot on the release of our third watch, which faced its own pandemic-induced delays. But, I can say that I continued to pivot with confidence as a result of coming to terms quickly with what that pandemic was going to mean for the business as a whole.
How are things going with this new initiative?
Great! The release of the premier collection was a success, the ad ran on December 3rd, and we released a brand new timepiece on December 2nd! I’ve learned that timelines are nice, but the reality of the world we live in is that you have to be ready for anything. If Endatto is going to persist, there has to be a willingness to throw best-laid plans out the window and work to succeed in the face of the reality being presented.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My parents. They have always supported me in general, but in particular when I broached the subject of starting my own business. Leaving my last job was spur of the moment, I reached a breaking point and had to make a change for myself. I didn’t have a plan other than starting something new. When I asked for my parents’ thoughts on this venture, they didn’t hesitate in voicing support and the encouragement has never waned. I wouldn’t be where I am without them.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
That would probably have to be the day I received an email from someone out of nowhere that contained a picture of a watch with my last name, Verderame, engraved on it. My family has no history of watchmaking or in the industry at large. As you might guess, I don’t meet a lot of people with the same last name, and the man who owns the watch does not share my last name. I’ve done some research but nothing has turned up regarding its origin as of yet, but I’m excited to continue to follow the thread and hopefully learn something!
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Establishing timelines without flexibility is useless, because when you start your own business you’re reliant on too many outside influences to realistically stick to “set in stone” timelines. My best example of this was a timeline that was important, but ultimately impossible to keep — the release of our premier collection.
- You can only control so much, so be sure you can trust that partners, colleagues, and vendors understand and share your vision. Once a strategy needs to be executed by others, you’re reliant upon them sticking to the script. When they deviate even slightly, it creates a waterfall of consequences that you must react too whether you like it or not. This occurred a number of times, from the design phase, to the materials phase, to the production phase. A single delay, a single mismatch of material and machine, will leave you scrambling to move forward in the most efficient way possible.
- Ask for help, because you’ll definitely need it. This can come in a lot of forms, whether it’s just getting an office organized, taking in opinions from others so as not to be clouded by your own prejudices, asking a friend who possesses skills you don’t to provide a favor to save time and money. You might own 100% of your business, but no one builds a business alone.
- Trust yourself, because in the end it’s what got you to where you are. You know you better than anyone, and when all else is equal it’s your opinion that matters most. Wavering causes stagnation and half-solutions, move forward with confidence in yourself. Most of my experience running Endatto has been a matter of trusting myself, but particularly in terms of designing the watches. I had to figure out how to balance the design between what I liked personally and what I felt customers would gravitate towards. The answer to that question doesn’t come until it’s too late to turn back, so it was critical to be confident in my decision making.
- You don’t know what you don’t know. Finding answers to unknowns breeds more questions. It’s best to find out right away what you aren’t considering but should be, and vice versa. Find someone who does know what you don’t know and is willing to help make sure you ask the right questions. Arguably the most important decision I made when starting Endatto was to find someone like me, a management consultant — but one that was focused on the watch industry. That person eased my mind, helped guide me through a number of stages of product development, and has now become a trusted advisor. All because I was willing to ask for help, admit I didn’t know what I had yet to consider, and pay for an hour of his time to put it all together.
So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?
I read as much as possible. In terms of staying informed on current events, specifically, I read reliable sources to relieve stress about news that can become misconstrued through social media or slanted presentations. I find stress is often derived from fear and unknown. So staying as informed as possible helps me to relieve stress, because the jolts aren’t as dramatic when you’ve been paying attention. When I’m trying not to focus on current events, I read more. I love to get lost in a good book or keep up with my favorite online journals and publications.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Enhancing the safety and education of underprivileged children. From food scarcity to education to after-school programs, there are so many different ways to positively impact the lives of the less fortunate, particularly children. Furthermore, this isn’t just about improving a child’s life in the now, it’s about setting them up for success in their future by providing a solid foundation.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
Bill Gates. I can only imagine the wide array of advice and information he’d be able to impart over the course of only a lunch. He’s also a famously voracious reader, so I’d love to sit and discuss books with him. Any sort of tips I could get in regard to growing my business would just be the icing on the cake!
How can our readers follow you online?
I can be followed or reached on Instagram (@endattousa), Facebook and Pinterest (Endatto). You can also visit endatto.com, where you can join the mailing list to receive the newsletter I author or peruse the blog!
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!